Category Archives: eco-smart

GPM Calculator

In June, I blogged about Fuqua professors Rick Larrick and Jack Soll and their push to improve fuel efficiency and consumer behavior by simply changing the measurement from MPG to GPM.  Today, Duke Research Advantage blogged that this work was featured in the New York Times Magazine’s “Year in Ideas” issue.  They’ve also launched a new GPM calculator to find your current GPM, compare cars, or see the GPM for all 2009 cars.  More information about this research, including an interactive fuel-efficiency quiz and a video of Larrick and Soll discussing their work is available at mpgillusion.com.

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Better fuel efficiency through better labels – gpm vs mpg

We all know how important language is in persuading people to think certain ways, and that certain words and phrases in common use are politicized rhetoric (think pro-life and pro-choice).  However, I never thought of “miles per gallon” as one of those potentially misleading phrases.  Until I read this in a Fuqua Alumni email:

For example, most people ranked an improvement from 34 to 50 mpg as saving more gas over 10,000 miles than an improvement from 18 to 28 mpg, even though the latter saves twice as much gas. (Going from 34 to 50 mpg saves 94 gallons; but from 18 to 28 mpg saves 198 gallons).

These mistaken impressions were corrected, however, when participants were presented with fuel efficiency expressed in gallons used per 100 miles rather than mpg. Viewed this way, 18 mpg becomes 5.5 gallons per 100 miles, and 28 mpg is 3.6 gallons per 100 miles — an $8 difference today.

“The reality that few people appreciate is that improving fuel efficiency from 10 to 20 mpg is actually a more significant savings than improving from 25 to 50 mpg for the same distance of driving,” Larrick said. (See table.)

See the full article here, including a video link.

RecycleBank on CNN

Just saw an interesting short news story on RecycleBank, which I hadn’t heard of before.  They motivate people to recycle by offering incentives from big corporate partners like Coke and Kraft.  Cities pay RecycleBank with money saved from landfill overuse fees, and the founder claims that most cities that implement the program have seen increases in recycling of over 100%.

A very interesting model for social entrepreneurship, and definitely seems to be scalable.  Seems that they’re currently located primarily in the northeastern US, but I’m guessing that the CNN story will help them scale out more quickly.  I’m very curious as to whether the customers (actually, I guess they should be called “end users,” as the customers paying for the service are the cities) have found the rewards program to be actually valuable.

I’m also really curious as to how the revenue works and the costs of the scanning equipment being retrofitted to the trucks (particularly upkeep/repair costs), but I’m sure that those things are trade secrets that won’t be revealed anytime soon.  Very interesting model, though, and the type of thing that I’d love to write a case study for!

McKinsey on Strategy – First Quarter Newsletter

I think I’ve mentioned before that I find the McKinsey Quarterly’s free resources available by signing up for their newsletter to be top notch.  This quarter’s entries for top strategy articles are no exception.  The descriptions below are taken directly from the e-mail newsletter.  I’ve deleted the ones that are only available to premium (paid) subscribers.  I’ve only read the climate change and Brad Bird/Pixar ones so far, but both were excellent.

Business strategies for climate change
April 2008
The value at stake is huge. The winners will be companies that reposition themselves to take advantage of a low-carbon future.

Dissecting global trends: An example from Italy
March 2008
Executives should examine the impact of trends on subindustries, segments, categories, and micromarkets before placing their bets.

The promise of prediction markets: A roundtable
April 2008
Prediction markets draw together information dispersed across the company, but they face organizational and legal challenges.

Innovation lessons from Pixar: An interview with Oscar-winning director Brad Bird
April 2008
His approach to fostering creativity among animators holds powerful lessons for any executive hoping to nurture innovation in teams and organizations.

Solar Panel adoption in CA

This blog post reports that “Southern California Edison plans to install 250 megawatts’ worth of solar panels on commercial rooftops, generating enough electricity to power 162,000 homes.”  Great post/article that goes into the long and short-term business implications of this decision, including a potential short-term price hike as demand spikes before an eventual price fall as economies of scale ramp up, and potential faster adoption of thin-film solar panels, which use far less silicon than traditional panels.

This report coming on the day that we’re hosting a screening of the documentary Kilowatt Ours with a Q&A session from director Jeff Barrie seems like some sort of good omen, or at least a pleasant coincidence.

MapEcos – an intersection of business, environmental activism and research

MapEcos is a joint venture led by business school professors at Harvard, Dartmouth and Duke. It “brings together information about companies’ environmental management, provided voluntarily by managers in real time, with companies’ pollution data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” according to a recent article in HBS Working Knowledge.

Virgin biofuel flight planned

The New York Times reported today that Virgin Atlantic will conduct a test of one of its Boeing 747s using biofuels. The most interesting thing to me is that there seems to have been a lot of thought put into both the sustainability and the business aspects (even though this first step is actually a blend of 20% biofuel and 80% conventional jet fuel).

Sustainability: Virgin spokesman Paul Charles is quoted as saying the company rejected fuels derived from crops like palm oil because of the land that would be needed to cultivate such crops, and that the biofuel production would not compete with food or freshwater resources.

Business: This joint project between Virgin, Boeing, and GE Aviation splits the costs of innovation among several companies, and had smart business requirements. For example, the test plane will use one of GE Aviation’s CF6 engines as a “drop-in solution,” meaning the use of biofuel requires no modification, and will not affect the engine’s performance or range.

I recently read a New Yorker article about Branson and his work with Al Gore to create the Virgin Earth Challenge with its $25 million prize.  I’m impressed that he’s so intent on solutions that are market-driven, commercial, and don’t require major lifestyle changes, as I believe that these are the ones that are truly scalable.  An excellent article that shows that for Branson, business is very personal.  I just wonder whether he’ll consider himself eligible to win his own prize?